Sheepdog School: Choosing the right pup

Man’s best friend, a loyal companion, and a farm’s greatest asset – the value of a well-trained sheepdog cannot be overestimated.

But even the most experienced of collies can have their quirks, leaving farmers frustrated and unsure on the best course of correction.

Here to help with training challenges are shepherding husband-and-wife team Emma Gray and Ewan Irvine, who are known for breeding and training some of the country’s finest collies.

See also: Sheepdog School: The secret to a good stop

Top tips from Sheepdog School’s Emma Gray

So, you have decided to get a sheepdog puppy to raise and train. How do you go about selecting a pup to work stock? 

The first decision is the most critical – what working traits do you want your pup to have?

Buying a pup bred from dogs who are good workers and have a method you like is key. It may seem obvious, but do not buy from parents who don’t work. Ideally, see them in action first.

Ask how easy or difficult the parents were to train. Were they natural-born herders? Were they stubborn? Are they powerful?

Making a good decision at this stage can make your training partnership easier and more enjoyable.

Personality and talent are not necessarily linked. If you have a choice, it is often best to select a pup whose looks and personality pleases you, and it is best to avoid very fearful or timid individuals.

There are lots of old tales about what to look for in a puppy, from a black roof of the pup’s mouth, to three whiskers on it’s chin.

In our experience, looks have not been a factor in a pup’s ability. We have had very ugly dogs be exceptional workers and some real beauties be very average.

Like all dog breeds, there are some potential health conditions in the Border Collie, so choose from DNA-tested parents: CEA, IGS, TNS, SN and EOD are some of the main ones to watch for, and ideally both parents should be hip-scored.

Don’t despair if you can’t get the pick of a litter, often good bitches have a waiting list for pups. Some of our best dogs have been last-pick pups.

Once your pup is chosen, let the fun begin…

Show us your dogs

To complement our sheepdog training series, we want to see your working dogs and cab companions on the farm.

Send in your best snaps to the Farmlife Framed gallery.


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